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Discussion Starter #1
Took a walk over lunch today in effort to practice with my new lens. Here's some shots I'd like to share:
















All were shot in RAW / NEF. Post-processing was applied in Aperture.

I'm a little concerned about the sharpness... Please comment and critique so that I may continue to learn.

Thanks,
Wallace
 

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#1, black birds need a bit of underexposure to keep it truly black, it looks like you got really close although on my monitor he looks a bit gray.
It seems you've been doing this long enough to know about shutter speed reciprocal to focal length rule. I think that may have hampered shot #2. Honestly, an exposure like that would challenge any photographer. Did you do that handheld?
#3 & #4 - beautiful. Wouldn't change a thing (except maybe a tiny bit of overexposure to keep those feathers white).
#5 with the fowl sitting on the grass, it looks like the focus was on his wing tips. keep an eye on your autofocus, they sometimes have a mind of their own. Was this focus/recompose or did you assign a AF point?
#6 looks like the aperture was almost wide open, DOF is pretty thin, making his head slightly out of the focal plane. You might try the sports shooters trick of stopping down a notch or two and using the birds feet as the focal point, trusting the increased DOF to keep everything in focus.
#7 well done on a challenging shot. Sometimes those birds just won't fly close...
#8 this may also be a DOF thing, as it looks like the front of that post is in focus.
Overall, the colors are great on them all. My only other suggestion is to vary the compositions to keep things interesting. A few more outings and I think you'll have a really good handle on the capabilities of your new lens. Carry on!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for taking the time to comment Dan. I really appreciate your thoughtful reply and analysis :-!

#1, black birds need a bit of underexposure to keep it truly black, it looks like you got really close although on my monitor he looks a bit gray.
It seems you've been doing this long enough to know about shutter speed reciprocal to focal length rule. I think that may have hampered shot #2. Honestly, an exposure like that would challenge any photographer. Did you do that handheld?
#3 & #4 - beautiful. Wouldn't change a thing (except maybe a tiny bit of overexposure to keep those feathers white).
#5 with the fowl sitting on the grass, it looks like the focus was on his wing tips. keep an eye on your autofocus, they sometimes have a mind of their own. Was this focus/recompose or did you assign a AF point?
#6 looks like the aperture was almost wide open, DOF is pretty thin, making his head slightly out of the focal plane. You might try the sports shooters trick of stopping down a notch or two and using the birds feet as the focal point, trusting the increased DOF to keep everything in focus.
#7 well done on a challenging shot. Sometimes those birds just won't fly close...
#8 this may also be a DOF thing, as it looks like the front of that post is in focus.
Overall, the colors are great on them all. My only other suggestion is to vary the compositions to keep things interesting. A few more outings and I think you'll have a really good handle on the capabilities of your new lens. Carry on!
I'm not sure I know the shutter-speed / focal length recip. relationship, but I think you're saying that at 400mm I should have a shutter-speed of 1/400th minimum. Make sense? Good to know. I'll keep it in mind.

They were all shot hand-held as I forgot to pack the tripod in the car this morning ;-)

I shot all in Aperture priority mode; as wide open as the lens would allow. I was trying to get as much light as possible, to keep my shutter-speed high at ISO 200. Great tip on stopping down... I'll give it a try!

Honestly, composition was secondary to testing the "reach" of this lens in this exercise. I wanted to see how close I could get, and what detail I could pull out of the subjects. I'll be working on composition more, once I decide whether I'm keeping the lens / if the lens is suitable for me.

Thanks, again, Dan. I really appreciate it!
-Wallace
 

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Awesome shots! Dan, very good points!

I would like to add though...
try to use the center focusing point. I usually compose the shot, lock the exposure, then use center focusing point to focus, quickly recompose and shoot. It may be tough with birds though but with a little bit of practice it doesn't take too long. At least on my SLR, I find the center focusing point to be most reliable. Also, don't be afraid to apply some sharpening. I did a smart sharpen filter with Lens Blur option in CS3 on this image and I think it came out pretty good, just to show as an example...hope you don't mind. Let me know if that's too extreme of a sharpness setting for you. Also, on that particular shot, the bird is a good distance away. You just can't expect the same sort of sharpness and resolution as you would if you zoomed in on the bird closer or were actually physically closer to the bird.

I loved these photos you did though...excellent job!
 

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I think they are excellent shots. I just wish I could take shots a good as these. Great job.:-!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Awesome shots! Dan, very good points!

I would like to add though...
try to use the center focusing point. I usually compose the shot, lock the exposure, then use center focusing point to focus, quickly recompose and shoot. It may be tough with birds though but with a little bit of practice it doesn't take too long. At least on my SLR, I find the center focusing point to be most reliable. Also, don't be afraid to apply some sharpening. I did a smart sharpen filter with Lens Blur option in CS3 on this image and I think it came out pretty good, just to show as an example...hope you don't mind. Let me know if that's too extreme of a sharpness setting for you. Also, on that particular shot, the bird is a good distance away. You just can't expect the same sort of sharpness and resolution as you would if you zoomed in on the bird closer or were actually physically closer to the bird.

I loved these photos you did though...excellent job!
Thank you for the comments and advice on technique :-!

I've not had the courage to try to lock exposure, recompose and shoot for fear of missing the capture. That being said (and to Dan's comments about composition) these all used the centre focus point, and were cropped later to enhance composition. I also believe that the centre focus point is the better option with my camera, and try to stay there for wildlife shots (at this point in my learning). It's a work in progress ;-)

The sharpening effect you applied was perfect, and the resulting sharpness of the image was just what I was hoping for! Thank you!! I guess I just need to figure out how to do this in Aperture, or break down and buy Photoshop...:roll:

Thanks, again, for the help!
-Wallace
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I think they are excellent shots. I just wish I could take shots a good as these. Great job.:-!
Thanks Barry! FWIW, I think that you take great photos... The photo of your watch at the beach is one of my all-time favourite watch-shots, and very memorable!

Keep shooting,
-Wallace
 

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I'm not sure I know the shutter-speed / focal length recip. relationship, but I think you're saying that at 400mm I should have a shutter-speed of 1/400th minimum. Make sense? Good to know. I'll keep it in mind.
Yup, that is a good rule of thumb to work with, although easier said than done! With your Nikon, I wouldn't be afraid at all to push the ISO to keep shutter speed/ aperture where you want it. I've done shots at ISO 1600 that turned out great. I do 'cheat' and run some through my Nik software Define 2.0. Also, you probably know that most lenses are sharpest when stopped down a bit. Even my EF 17-40 f/4L is sharper at f/5.6 than f/4. At f/8 it's dreamy!

I do know the center AF point on all DSLR's are the most accurate (cross-type). On my 40D, I have a joystick that I can bump with my thumb to assign a different AF point, takes less than a second. I'm sure your camera has something similar. That allows you to focus without recomposing.

Post more shots from your next outing!
~D
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Yup, that is a good rule of thumb to work with, although easier said than done! With your Nikon, I wouldn't be afraid at all to push the ISO to keep shutter speed/ aperture where you want it. I've done shots at ISO 1600 that turned out great. I do 'cheat' and run some through my Nik software Define 2.0. Also, you probably know that most lenses are sharpest when stopped down a bit. Even my EF 17-40 f/4L is sharper at f/5.6 than f/4. At f/8 it's dreamy!

I do know the center AF point on all DSLR's are the most accurate (cross-type). On my 40D, I have a joystick that I can bump with my thumb to assign a different AF point, takes less than a second. I'm sure your camera has something similar. That allows you to focus without recomposing.

Post more shots from your next outing!
~D
Again, excellent information Dan - thank you.

Most (if not all) of the tid-bits of knowledge you have mentioned, I was not aware of. Thank you very much for bringing it to my attention, and explaining it to me :-!

Stay tuned for more shots, as I continue to learn :-d

Best regards,
Wallace
 

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These are really great photos! Can I ask what type of camera/lens you are using?

Also, what kind of post-processing are you doing? I am in the process of learning myself as well, and choosing a DSLR.

:thanks
 

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These are really great photos! Can I ask what type of camera/lens you are using?

Also, what kind of post-processing are you doing? I am in the process of learning myself as well, and choosing a DSLR.

:thanks
Hi Ben,

Great to meet another "newbie" to photography!!

To answer your question; about a year ago, I bought the Nikon D90 with the 18mm-200mm lens to start out with. Since then, I've added the 105mm macro lens (for watches ;-)), then a 50mm "prime" as I was feeling that I needed to work on composition and "seeing" since I was getting bogged-down in the technical side of the equipment... The 50mm is used for walk around exercises: It forces me to "zoom with my feet" and get more interactive with the subject.

When Spring comes to Ontario, the birds return and the landscape comes alive again. I felt I needed more "reach" with the lenses I had, so I purchased the 80mm-400mm telephoto lens. Because of the DX sensor in the D90, this lens has an impressive effective focal length of 120mm-600mm! A "real" 600mm lens is way beyond what I can justify at this time, so this is a reasonable alternative. I'm still learning how to use it, but enjoying the practice!

As to image files and post-processing; this is where I'm lagging behind the curve. The vast majority of the time I shoot in RAW / NEF with a companion JPEG file. I use Apple's Aperture for my workflow and basic image processing, but I'm still very novice in this area.

The majority of my work-day is spent in front of the computer and I've resisted spending more time there to "develop" images. I wanted photography to be a creative outlet in my life, not to be another tie to technology... I'm trying to balance the two, and now am coming to realize that post-processing releases the potential within the RAW data.

I need to learn more, in all areas, but am encouraged by the progress I've seen in the last year.

Thanks for your compliments. Good luck in your own journey into photography! If I can be of any help, do not hesitate to ask.

Best regards,
Wallace
 

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Thanks Barry! FWIW, I think that you take great photos... The photo of your watch at the beach is one of my all-time favourite watch-shots, and very memorable!

Keep shooting,
-Wallace
Wow! :thanks mate. But are you sure it's my photo you are thinking of? Is it maybe the shot of my G-Shock you're referring to?
 
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